Morrow proving to be welcome addition for Blues; Halak may stay busy

News-DemocratOctober 5, 2013 

— St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was impressed with veteran winger Brenden Morrow's debut on Thursday, most notably for a reverse shoulder check that Morrow dropped on Nashville's Mike Fisher.

Morrow made an impact again Saturday but this time it was on the scoreboard. He netted his first Blues goal on the rebound of a shot by Derek Roy at 14:58 of the first period, beating Florida goalie Tim Thomas and later added an assist on a goal by Roy.

"It always feels good to contribute that way," said Morrow, the former captain of the Dallas Stars. "I learned early on in my career not to judge my game on statistics, but it's rewarding and it feels good to be able to contribute goals and assists and making plays around the net."

The 34-year-old Morrow did not sign with the Blues until late September. Even though he was working out hard on his own, it's tough to replicate game conditions in the NHL.

"I would say he's probably 75 or 80 percent where he's going to be at, getting better every day," Hitchcock said. "The hands are catching up to the feet now; the feet were way ahead of the hands."

Morrow's hands looked just fine as he expertly lifted a backhander past Thomas to put the Blues in front.

"He's just a competitor," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "If you were in a foxhole, you'd like to have him beside you and not on the other side."

Hitchcock also liked what he saw Thursday from one of the Blues' youngest wingers, 20-year-old Vladimir Tarasenko. Hitchcock wants Tarasenko and fellow youngster Jaden Schwartz to work on getting more shots, but Tarasenko showed a little more physical side to his game against Nashville.

"He really was dominant on the cycle," Hitchcock said. "If you cycle the puck like that, you're going to end up with a lot of scoring chances and a lot of shooting opportunities."

Halak the workhorse?

With a relatively light schedule the first few weeks of the season, Blues fans could be seeing a lot of goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The Blues have at least two days off before each of their next three games and won't encounter their first back-to-back games until Oct. 19-20 (Chicago and Winnipeg).

"There's such a big break between games," Hitchcock said Saturday before Halak blanked Florida 7-0 for his record 17th shutout with the Blues. "We'll go with Jaro (Saturday) and see how it goes, but with all these big breaks between games, there's no reason one guy can't play to start the season."

Hitchcock said goaltender Brian Elliott will get his chance soon enough.

"I think you're looking probably on back-to-backs and three in four nights, we're probably going to certainly make the move then," Hitchcock said. "Brian's last two days were the best we've ever seen from him this year, so that's been great. (Halak) played very well in Game 1 and we just want to keep going with it."

Old days, good times

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester literally grew up with the Florida Panthers.

He was the third overall pick in the 2002 draft and broke into the NHL as a 19-year-old with the Panthers that year under former Blues coach Mike Keenan.

Bouwmeester played for Florida from 2002 to 2009 but the Panthers never made the playoffs, not even during a 93-point season his final year there in 2008-09.

"Team-wise we really didn't have whole lot of success so that part of it was tough," said Bouwmeester, the top iron man in major professional sports after playing in his 637th straight game Saturday. "But personally, that's where I started and got an opportunity to play at a pretty young age."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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